Get out of glacial mode, says ORS president

By Annie Hayashi

“Make no mistake—we must change”

Acknowledging that his predecessors warned him that the presidential address would be his most difficult task, Orthopaedic Research Society (ORS) president David B. Burr, PhD, used the opportunity to “say what needs to be said.”

“The ORS must change—for scientific reasons, for economic reasons, for logistic reasons. How we change is up for discussion, but make no mistake—we must change,” Dr. Burr said. He challenged his colleagues not to be “lulled into believing that the status quo is right because it is the status quo.”

ORS President David B. Burr, PhD

Visions and missions diverge

According to Dr. Burr, “the ORS is—or ought to be—the primary outlet for orthopaedic research in all forms and at all levels.”

Using the example of the AAOS focus on advocacy and education, Dr. Burr noted that “research is at the forefront of the ORS mission, followed closely by communication.

“Over the past 10 years, the stated missions of the two groups have really grown apart,” he said.

As the Academy moved toward more education for its members, the ORS has become more “cellular and molecular in its research mission, often not relating the scientific discoveries to the real everyday problems of the orthopaedic surgeon and practitioner. Frankly, it is even difficult for basic scientists to communicate.

“The important discussion should not be about the location of the Annual Meeting, but about how the ORS and the AAOS will interact scientifically going forward to the betterment of orthopaedic research and orthopaedic practice,” he stated.

Bridge to nowhere

Dr. Burr believes that the ORS is poised to provide leadership because no other society deals with the musculoskeletal system in its entirety—“from the standpoint of biology and engineering, and attempts to translate findings in bioengineering to the clinical realm.”

But to assume that leadership position, the organization must “integrate our science 3-dimensionally” and go beyond biologic, engineering, and clinical realms—even beyond the biologic organization of “atoms to organisms”— to a more holistic approach to musculoskeletal disease.

For the organization to move forward, bridges need to be built within the subdisciplines of the biologic, bioengineering, and clinical areas of ORS.

And the ORS, according to Dr. Burr, needs to forge alliances with the AAOS.

“ORS and AAOS meet together, but there is really very little traffic on the bridge, because the bridge doesn’t go anywhere,” he stated.

A bold, new vision for the future

“It is time that we become much more proactive—for us to propose to the AAOS how we would like to interact with their members, and to clearly state what we have to offer.

“It is time for the AAOS to tell us what they would like from us,” he continued, “and to actively participate in our research meeting.

“Creating silos of specialized knowledge will not solve the problems that we have to solve.”

Because the ORS meeting is largely driven by the abstracts it receives, he proposed an expanded format—one that could offer more “cross-disciplinary symposia with nationally and internationally recognized speakers who are selected for the body of their work and knowledge.”

He acknowledged that this may require a longer ORS meeting but this “would allow us to coordinate and integrate more fully with the AAOS”—having one and a half days of overlap instead of a half day.

“We would have more time to offer ‘meet-the-professor’ sessions [that would enable] younger investigators to rub elbows individually or in smaller groups with senior mentors.

“We could enhance our educational offerings as well, on subjects such as award management, research administration, budget construction and the management of clinical trials,” he added.

Several logistic and financial obstacles exist, noted Dr. Burr, and these will “continue to be a challenge as long as the ORS and AAOS meet, unless the AAOS forms a truly collaborative partnership—one which is based on mutual respect, and support for the ORS role as the main research arm of the AAOS.”

“In the current research environment, glacial mode is simply not an option for the ORS. We need to think critically about our future, even if it means some discomfort,” he concluded.

Annie Hayashi is the senior science writer for AAOS Now. She can be reached at